Viking Air of Sidney, British Columbia, flew its DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 400 prototype for the first time on October 1 from Victoria International Airport. Said Steve Stackhouse, pilot-in-command and Viking’s manager of flight operations, “The aircraft performed beautifully.” Michael Moore, co-captain and engineering test pilot, echoed, “The first flight went smoothly and the aircraft handled exactly as expected.” The airplane is on display in the NBAA static park at Orlando Executive Airport.
To create the -400, Viking made 120 modifications to a technology demonstrator -300 series Twin Otter, the last model built. The improvements include a new engine, Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PT6A-34, which is more powerful than the original PT6A-27, but is flat-rated to match the -27’s takeoff power for better hot-and-high performance. Performance figures will remain the same, although the new Twin Otter will have a lower empty weight. Viking also plans to offer PT6A-35 engines and four-blade propellers as an option. The prototype has Wipline 1300 amphibious floats.
Viking Twin Otter Series 400 airplanes will be equipped with an integrated suite of Primus Apex avionics from Honeywell. The Apex platform offers Viking’s customers an avionics package that integrates aircraft systems, safety sensors and navigation information, decreases pilot workload and improves safety through enhanced situational awareness.
Viking Air, part of Westerkirk Capital, a Canadian private investment firm, has been manufacturing parts for and supporting the Twin Otter and other de Havilland airplanes for more than 15 years, including manufacturing new wings for the Twin Otter. In February 2006 the company purchased the type certificates for the DHC-6 Twin Otter and DHC-1 (Chipmunk) through -7 (Dash 7) from Bombardier.
At first, according to Viking president and CEO David Curtis, the company focused on supporting the more than 600 remaining Twin Otters of the 844 built until production ceased in 1988. Then Viking hired consulting firm Conklin & de Decker to ascertain which DHC airplanes might spark marketplace interest large enough to justify reopening a production line. The results showed that potential Twin Otter buyers wanted 400 airplanes in 10 years. Viking determined it would need orders for at least 20 airplanes to make production worthwhile and talked to potential customers. Buyers eventually placed orders for twice that many, and now the backlog stands at more than 50 airplanes, with the next available delivery slot in 2012. None of those orders are from U.S. operators, according to Curtis. Delivery of the first customer airplane is planned for next summer.
In Canada–unlike in the U.S.–Viking doesn’t need to obtain a separate production certificate for volume production. “Because we own the type certificate, the company already has the approval to manufacture the aeronautical product,” Curtis said. Viking is building a new facility at its Victoria headquarters to prepare for Twin Otter production.